Friday, February 28, 2014

Montessori Preschool

Summer, through a series of bumbling steps on my part, is finally going to the preschool of my dreams. It's a Montessori school. There are significant disadvantages to it. There is the distance. Seriously, she commutes to preschool. How crazy is that? It's a 12-minute drive away, but there are preschools three minutes away. The cost is pretty crazy too. And then I don't really even know that Montessori is going to have any significant long-term advantages on her well-being in the long run.

But I still think we made the right choice. Montessori is a philosophy I believe in. It emphasizes students learning at their own pace, and what they are interested in. It emphasizes carefully teaching a concept before the student is expected to learn it on her own. It emphasizes communal learning--in the mixed class sizes, the older children teach the younger children. It emphasizes self-reliance because each student is expected to do as much as they can by themselves. It emphasizes respect and order. In short, it is designed to prepare the world for the world as it actually is, rather than focusing education around a curriculum designed by adults (who usually don't even teach!) that has an emphasis around the academic world as opposed to the real-life world.

Several years ago I watched this TED talk about how schools kill creativity (a bit of a dramatic statement, if you ask me, but whatever):

Here is an excerpt from the talk:

Kids will take a chance. If they don’t know, they’ll have a go. Am I right? They’re not frightened of being wrong. Now, I don’t mean to say that being wrong is the same thing as being creative. What we do know is, if you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original. If you’re not prepared to be wrong. And by the time they get to be adults, most kids have lost that capacity. They have become frightened of being wrong. And we run our companies like this, by the way, we stigmatize mistakes. And we’re now running national education systems where mistakes are the worst thing you can make. And the result is, we are educating people out of their creative capacities.

And another:

Academic ability has really come to dominate our view of intelligence because the universities designed the system in their image. If you think of it, the whole system of public education around the world is a protracted process of university entrance. And the consequence is that many highly talented, brilliant, creative people think they’re not, because the thing they were good at at school wasn’t valued, or was actually stigmatized.

I don't think Montessori is 100% in line with what I think education ought to be. There isn't much emphasis on dance. If I want my kids to get the perfect education, that is something I'll have to figure out on my own. However, I feel very lucky to know that Summer goes to a school that aligns with my values.

Summer goes to school every day from 9-3. This is a lot of time away from home for a four-year-old, especially a four-year-old with a stay-at-home parent. I didn't expect that she would settle into her school schedule that she would have for the rest of her years at home so soon. But it has been wonderful for her and wonderful for me.

She doesn't have separation anxiety. She looks forward to going to school almost every day (she still has her moments). And when she comes home, we have really lovely, precious times together. I think absence has made the heart grow fonder.

And I feel like she is really cared for there. Each teacher truly respects the students. Summer will never be belittled, bullied, lost in the shuffle, or made to undergo busywork that doesn't suit her. So if she is gone for a long time each day in that kind of environment, it doesn't bother me one bit.

So what am I doing with my spare time? Not much. Well, I am taking care of another child. But I do look forward to the time he is in Montessori so that I can work and have a little more time to myself. Because maybe absence will make our hearts grow fonder as well.